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Major drug bust in Northern Thailand

Police seized nearly 90,000 speed pills, crystal methamphetamines and over US$150 million in assets during a crackdown on drug trafficking networks in Chiang Rai last week, as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced it will work with Thailand and countries in the region to prevent the smuggling of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illegal narcotics. 
 
Authorities from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, provincial police and the Pha Muang Task Force, a military unit, participated in the Chiang Rai raids, which took place at several locations during the Songkran holidays.  Enforcement against narcotics trafficking is an area of strong cooperation between the United States and Thailand, and was a point of discussions when President Barack Obama visited Bangkok in 2012.
 
The officers seized a total of 82,881 speed pills and nearly 16 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. They also impounded 45 items including 29 vehicles, valuables and roughly $30,000 in cash from two alleged members of a drug syndicate wanted on police warrants for possessing amphetamines.  The suspects, however, are believed to have already fled across the border into neighboring Myanmar.
 
Chiang Rai is Thailand’s northernmost province and part of the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge.  The Golden Triangle has a decades-old reputation for smuggling, especially for producing and trafficking of drugs. It was once the source of most of the world’s opium and heroin, although it has been supplanted in that respect by surging production in Afghanistan and reduced output in Southeast Asia.
 
To try and stop the illegal drug trade at its source, law enforcement officials in countries in the region have been attempting to cut off the flow of chemicals used in the narcotics production process, often referred to as precursor chemicals.
 
Last week, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) announced it would work with Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China to stop the smuggling of precursor chemicals.  The agreement was unveiled by UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas after a meeting with Thailand’s Minister of Justice Paiboon Koomchaya.
 
The Minister also informed the UNODC about progress on the work of the newly established Safe Mekong Coordination Center, a joint project of the four aforementioned countries to exchange information and intelligence on drug trafficking and cooperate in enforcement and interdiction activities.  The Mekong River joins the four nations.
 
The UNODC is expected to provide technical assistance to the four countries and contribute funding for the Center. Minister Paiboon said that the Center also needs funding from the Asian Development Bank.
 
Thai authorities contend that a large percentage of the drugs smuggled in the area are transported on cargo ships, but that arrests are low because each country patrols its territorial waters on its own.  The lack of coordination and cooperation means vital information isn’t always shared and criminals escape or avoid detection.
 
See the original article at Thailand Focus

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